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Why Trust Matters: How Confidence in Leaders Transforms What Adolescents Gain From Youth Programs


Journal of Research on Adolescence

Published online on


Youth's trust in program leaders is considered a key to the positive impact of youth programs. We sought to understand how trust influences youth's program experiences from their perspective. We interviewed 108 ethnically diverse youth (ages 12–19) participating in 13 arts, leadership, and technology programs. Analysis of these accounts suggested five ways in which youth's trust in leaders amplified program benefits. Trust increased youth's (1) confidence in leaders' guidance in program activities, (2) motivation in the program, (3) use of leaders for mentoring, (4) use of leaders as a model of a well‐functioning relationship, and (5) experience of program cohesiveness. Across benefits, trust allowed youth to draw on leaders' expertise, opened them to new experiences, and helped increase youth's agency.